Ford, not Myler, must profit from Flood’s French sojourn

george ford

A year and a half out from a Rugby World Cup on home soil, the one thing you don’t want is your most experienced player swanning off to France and effectively ruling himself out of the running for selection. That he plays in the most pivotal position on the pitch, fly-half, is equally as distressing. He is not everyone’s cup of tea, but make no mistake: Toby Flood’s move to France is a huge blow for England at this stage of the World Cup cycle.

However, from this bad news springs some good. The calls for George Ford’s inclusion in the England set-up have reached a crescendo, but were it not for Flood’s French sojourn it is unlikely the youngster would have got a look in so soon.

Now, it appears he is on a two-man shortlist to replace Flood for the upcoming RBS Six Nations – ironic, given that his frustration at not being able to do just that at Leicester is the exact reason he moved to Bath, and is consequently being talked up for international honours. For all the criticism he received from Tigers fans for that move, he has spectacularly reaped the benefits of being the undisputed number one choice down in the West Country.

The other man on that shortlist is Northampton’s Stephen Myler, who has been leading the Northampton backline with quiet aplomb so far this season. Other would-be contenders include Exeter’s Henry Slade and Sale’s Danny Cipriani, but the former is too raw while doubts still remain about the latter’s mentality and defence – he needs to prove himself for longer before a return to the England fold will be forthcoming.

So it would appear to be Ford v Myler for now. And really, there is only one right decision here.

Myler does many things well, and, despite being at an entirely different stage in his rugby development, there are plenty of similarities between him and Ford. Myler, like Ford, has benefitted this season from being the undisputed first choice number ten, having shared that duty in recent seasons with Ryan Lamb. He has grown in confidence and looks more comfortable in himself as the chief playmaker and string-puller. In turn, that confidence has seen his goal-kicking percentage sky-rocket – as has Ford’s.

For all their similarities, though, it is where they differ that is crucial. Myler manages a game superbly well, and is solid in defence. In those aspects, he is probably better than Ford. The Bath man, however, offers so much more in attack. He has a deceivingly dangerous change of pace, an eye for a gap, and superb distribution skills. All of these were in evidence against Leicester at the weekend, when he so nearly inspired Bath to what would have been only their second ever win at Welford Road.

Many have said he is not ready. They have claimed his place-kicking is not good enough and that he does not perform under pressure. Those perceived weaknesses were quashed in that game, where many would have expected him to fall apart. Back at a ground where he spent his rugby education, in front of fans still disgruntled at his decision to leave, he could probably have been forgiven for having a bad day at the office. Instead, he stuck to his game and had a hand in all three of Bath’s three beautifully executed tries. He also nailed all of his kicks, which was crucial in securing the draw.

While Myler is also an excellent kicker, he does not possess the innate ability, or vision, to throw the over-the-top miss pass Ford did for the first try, or the pace to scythe through the defensive line in the build-up to the second. These are the traits that England fans want to see.

Another thing to consider is the balance of England’s fly-half options. Owen Farrell is a solid player, in a similar way to Myler, but crucially he is considerably younger. Myler is 29 – do England need another, older, Farrell in their ranks? Or would they be better served looking to a younger, more exciting player – certainly someone that is more likely to feature prominently post 2015? With Burns not firing and seemingly third choice, and Farrell nailed on as first choice, Ford would offer so much more to bring off the bench than Myler.

Ask yourself this – if this were New Zealand, would we even be having this debate? Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett, two brilliantly exciting, young fly-halves who have emerged in recent years, pretty much answer that question. Myler is a fantastic player, but Ford is England’s future.

Who should replace Toby Flood in the England squad?

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By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

34 thoughts on “Ford, not Myler, must profit from Flood’s French sojourn

  1. A bit harsh on Myler not receiving any votes. Where are you Saints fans?! But then thinking about it, if Myler did get selected, who have Saints got to play at 10?
    Personally I think Ford would be a very good choice to have on the bench. Bring him on at 55-60 minutes, and pick out the tired opposition players and run the back line at them.

  2. Is the poll asking about EPS or squad selection? Because surely Burns jumps into second spot for selection based on his current EPS status. I know they are selecting a new squad this week but I’d be surprised if Farrell was the only consistent 10, SL likes consistency in selection.

    Also, is there a need for three 10s in the EPS? When Burns was selected for the EPS, he didn’t replace another 10, he was just added because his form was so good. Particularly with 12Ts being able to cover 10. Is it a waste to have a third 10 there?

    We could easily see Farrell and Burns being the only 10s in the EPS, IMO. Ford will definitely be in the Saxons, preferably alongside Cipriani.

    Myler is solid, but too old to be worth taking a punt on now. He will never be first choice is doesn’t offer experience.

    1. Sorry, should have clarified, it’s for inclusion in the senior EPS to replace Flood. Burns isn’t on the list as he is already in there.

      Perhaps there isn’t the need for three 10s, but I think it’s a brilliant time to include Ford so why not? Flood’s ruled himself out with a move to France, Burns isn’t playing well – why not stick him on the bench to come on for Farrell if the time is right in the 6N?

      1. Thought so, I just wanted to clarify.

        I do think Ford has great potentially, and he clearly should be looked at. I would be surprised if Burns was dropped from the EPS, so it is more a debate as to whether we need three 10s. If we do, I would definitely go with Ford. If SL wants to give him game time during the 6Ns he will have to include him in the EPS, so that should give us some indication.

        What happens if we commit to Farrell/ Ford, then Burns goes to Leicester? I’m sure he would then hit top form again. I don’t think SL likes chopping and changing, and Flood going will spoil his plans slightly so I feel like he will commit to two fly halves fully for 2015. I just feel like Burns on top form is the way to go.

      2. I definitely agree with the idea of sticking him in in place of Burns. Burns is so out of form and low in self confidence that they’re not even letting him take the place kicks. That speaks volumes to me. Ford has been the main reason Bath are so high in the table and playing some great rugby.

  3. Please can we avoid the lazy stereotyping of players? Ford was good against Leicester, but he was poor against Northampton the week before. I could counter all your examples from the Leicester game here with the things that Ford failed to do against Northampton. It doesn’t make him a bad player, but equally it has to be recognized that he isn’t international quality yet. The difference between a good club level player and an international is the ability consistently to perform at an excellent level (hence why Cipriani isn’t getting picked either, as he’s inconsistent – likewise Ryan Lamb, Shane Geraghty, and many other promising young English fly halves before them).

    Myler is a quality player who would in all likelihood suit England’s playing style better – but I wouldn’t pick him for England either (I’m a Saints supporter), especially if Owen Farrell stays in the mix. I generally agree that he’s a) too old to be introduced now and b) too similar to Farrell. That said, he’s come on leaps and bounds as a player since he started working with Alex King and now seems to be more instinctive and attack-oriented than in the past.

    I’d like to see Alex Goode back at fly half as he’s far better suited to that position than 15. I don’t like him as a fullback because he doesn’t offer the counterattacking threat that Brown and Foden have, but he’s a hugely gifted rugby player with a good ability to find a gap in close quarters and put people in to space. He’s also got a nice kicking game and plenty of experience playing 10. You could do a lot worse from the current crop, and the next level down of 10s just aren’t ready yet.

    1. Fair point, but I’d argue that the Northampton game was the exception, rather than the Leicester one. I used the Tigers game as it’s the most recent example, but I think Ford has been consistently excellent this season, with the Saints game being the blip. Not the other way round.

      Agree on your thoughts re Goode as well. Think it’s such a shame he’s never been used more as a 10 because, as you say, his style of play is much better suited to that position than fullback.

      1. Fair enough, I’ve not watched enough Bath games this season to refute that. All I know is that he fell off the radar completely for selection for 18 months for some reason or other, but it’s also true that Burns is catastrophically out of form at the moment so Ford probably is the next best option, if we agree that Cipriani isn’t back there yet. I wouldn’t object to Stephen Myler being picked as I rate him highly but he would be a short term option.

        Goode should definitely have a think though, as there’s a quality lineup of good English 15s but not many 10s – his skills, and crucially the fact that he’s got a few caps already, would really work in his favour.

    2. Although Goode always looks like a FH playing out of position, I wouldn’t consider him as an England option unless he was playing there regularly for his club.

      Agree with Ford we can’t airbrush out the ropey performances, but my concern is we don’t have any alternative option at all at the moment (with Burns being off-form/’distracted’) so think we have to take a risk. It’s a better to take a look now rather than a summer tour to NZ as a first introduction to international rugby in my view.

    3. Interesting thoughts on Goode. He certainly has something about him. He would have to move clubs if he wanted to be a 10 though, would he do that? He starts every week at Saracens still, so it would be a big career risk to jump ship to have a go at being a 10. Also, where could he go? A bigger club may not take a risk on someone who isn’t a proven 10, and a smaller Premiership club may not help his chances.

      1. If Burns moves to Leicester, Gloucester would be a good fit perhaps? They’re having a dismal season but it’s likely to be better next year with some decent forwards coming in. Although they may not be playing HC rugby which would be an issue.

        All speculation anyway, it’s pretty likely he’ll stay at 15.

        1. Even if Hodgson retired he would be behind Farrell, and he can’t be considered for the England 10 shirt without being first choice at his club.

          1. Sarries like to rotate their players, and Hodgson got almost as much gametime as Farrell at 10 before he was injured. Farrell can shift in to the 12 shirt for Sarries and not miss out on gametime.

  4. Another important thing to consider is that a Sarries/ Northants is a very likely premiership final so England could potentially be without BOTH Farrell and Myler for the first test against New Zealand. So it makes sense to give Ford a run out in the 6n. I’d leave Myler in the Saxons (he is reasonable like for like for Farrell in the case of injury) and bring in Cipriani to the Saxons in case either Burns or Ford become unavilable. Covers all bases. However given the above scenario I think it is essntial that either Ford or Burns starts one or more games in the 6n to see how they fare.

  5. We have to find an alternative/backup to Farrell …. and it’s not Flood. Flood is a decent experienced option to have on a bench, but he’s never convinced when he’s had the starting shirt. As Dallaglio stated he’s been capped 60 times and England have only won 50% of those. It’s a good opportunity to move on.

    Definitely time to look at Ford, ideally bring him on and move Farrell to 12 to keep the place kicking duties so he can find his feet without the added pressure of kicking for points.

    I don’t think Cipriani is right for England (that’s more a criticism of England than Cipriani), he’ll be running laterally looking to pick an option to pass to and find one or none.

    1. Farrell moving to 12 to accommodate Ford should not be an option. Farrell is not a 12, he offers zero running threat. 12Ts is the future at 12, he needs game time there.

      If Ford isn’t up to kicking goals then he isn’t up to being an international 10 yet. Simple.

      1. Didn’t make my point clearly, not as a starting option but as an introduction off the bench at ~60 mins. Just as a way for him to find his feet, build his confidence, before the burden/pressure of kicking is added.

        1. Ah ok I see your point, apologies. I wouldn’t mind seeing that, depending who is at 13 though. I wouldn’t want to see 20 minutes of rugby from England with no running threat at 12 in the shape of Farrell, then someone like Tomkins outside him. We meant to be making our back line more potent not less.

      2. I think until Glos start playing with confidence consistently Twelvetree is going to suffer with his own poor form. He is a stand out player at Glos at the mo, but he is still not playing at his best. Burrell for me would be a better option currently, with maybe Joseph outside him. He is finding form with Ford playing so well?

        1. I don’t agree with picking of form as an only deciding factor. It obviously must be taken into account but you don’t chop and change teams based on who’s playing well this month.

          12Ts has the complete skill set and has shown it at international level in patches. We need to give him game time there. Consistency in selection leads to consistency on the pitch.

      3. Yes… take the pressure off him by putting someone with no running ability inside him at 12.
        …a position whose primary role is to carry the ball.

  6. Nice work Jamie.
    Personally think Ford and Cipriani should be brought in for Flood and Burns. Burns’ form has not been good enough – Ford and Cipriani should be rewarded for their performances in the Premiership. Myler has had a good season but I don’t think he’s as a prospect for 2015.
    10 is not a major concern for England though – more worried about 12 / 13 combination! Serious depth at 12 but who will play 13 in the 6N?

    1. I imagine we’ll see Barritt at 13 in the 6N until Tuilagi returns (I’m hoping later stages of the tournament). SL trusts and there are worse options.

  7. Mixed feelings on the subject. Myler is doing well enough for Saints, but is he a little old and should England be looking to the new players coming through? Old is one thing, but it’s only really useful if it’s a player with reasonable experience and I don’t think his few caps over the summer really count. Cipriani is doing reasonably well too, but I feel his defence is at times a little questionable.

    I’m going on the assumption that Lancaster will continue with Farrell at 10. Burns’ form is a little off and I think he’s struggling with the state of Gloucester and taking it all a little personally. I’d like to see – for his own good – him omitted from the England side while he gets his brain in check.

    I’d like to see Farrell, Flood retained for experience and Ford to get experience within the team and the culture.

    I suspect though that Farrell, Burns and Ford will be the selection

  8. Very interested to know who the 5 votes for A N Other were?

    Goode (Andy)? Hodgson? Geraghty? Lamb? The other Ford?

    I see Ford stepping into the EPS as a “no-brainer” to be honest. He is one of the two Saxons incumbents at No10, and ticks the two contrasting boxes of “Current Form” and “Potential/Future”.

    Yes, you do need 3 Fly-Halves in the Elite squad, the same as you need 3 Hookers and 3 Scrum Halves. It’s because you always need two of each in a match day squad, and if one is injured then the third needs to come in seamlessly. If you’re drafting in from the Saxons or outside in case of an injury, they have a lot of catching up to do.

  9. Can anyone confirm for me whether this is a Saxons and Elite squad selection from scratch? Or whether they are tied to a maximum number of changes to the existing?

    I was interested to see that Anthony Watson is not in the Saxons squad currently and indeed there are 7 Wing/Full Backs theoretically ahead of him already in the Saxons.

    If you can’t be bothered to look;
    Tait, Daly, Nowell, Strettle, Monye, Sharples and May.

    1. The EPS agreement means that the Saxons and EPS squads are picked 3 times a year, prior to Autumn tests, the 6N and Summer tests. They can completely change the team at these points. I think it’s three times, if not it’s definitely prior to the Autumn tests and 6N.

      Between EPS announcements, England can only call up players outside of the EPS to replace players who are injured or suspended.

      Watson is currently in the under 20s (the 3rd EPS squad). Personally, I’d be considering swapping him into the Saxons for Monye. His form and ability are worth getting him moving through the ranks. Whether he’s ready to go straight up to the 1st team, I don’t know.

      1. Thanks for explaining that.

        I see that the EPS wings are Yarde, Wade and Ashton. On would assume that Wade and Yarde would remain, even though they are injured, which means the door is wide open to bring in others from the Saxons squad.

        Ashton remains a puzzle.

        I would agree in bringing Watson into the Saxons in place of Monye, and I suspect that we will see him, and possibly May, stepping up to the EPS as injury cover the the other two.

        I wouldn’t be disappointed to see Walker in for Sharples as well.

        Jamie Elliot must be banging on the door as well?

  10. Ford into the Senior squad.
    Slade into the Saxons – with a mind to starting him in both matches.

    I see those two as being our FH options come the 2019 RWC.
    No point in wasting time.

  11. Simpson
    Cipriani
    May
    Eastmond
    Joseph
    Ashton
    Brown

    Never going to happen but would love to see that back line take the field.

  12. Hi Jamie, please look at 1.30 to see an over-the-top miss pass myler… would have required plenty of vision and ability to pull off!

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